Manchester gigs: Tex-Mex players Calexico play the Ritz

Louise Bolotin

A “desert noir” band head to Manchester this month for a one-off gig.

A quick heads-up on a Tex-Mex indie band from Arizona heading to the Ritz this month: Calexico play a blend of traditional Latino sounds and American southern country rock. The Latin rhythms they specialise in are mariachi, tejano, cumbia and conjunto, while north-of-the-Mexican-border influences range from the Doobie Brothers to 1950s jazz. Around since the mid-1990s, Calexico has acquired the label “desert noir”. Theirs is an understated and sublime sound, the laidback air of melancholy lifted by Tijuana-style brass.

Theirs is an understated and sublime sound, the laidback air of melancholy lifted by Tijuana-style brass.

The Tex-Mex genre has yet to achieve mainstream popularity in the UK. Global star, Ry Cooder is its most famous exponent, with a lengthy career now into a sixth decade. In recent years, acts such as Los Lobos, the Mavericks and Raúl Malo have enjoyed limited success here, yet despite our seemingly endless love for Americana as depicted in the quintessential road movies, 1950s ephemera and the mythology of the western frontiers, Tex-Mex music, so often a soundtrack on American indie films, has largely been a footnote on the British stage for world music.

Regulars at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Calexico has also shared billing with the likes of Yo La Tengo and worked with artists as diverse as Willie Nelson, Roger McGuinn and Nancy Sinatra. The Manchester gig is one of just five UK dates the six-piece are playing this year. Tours in the UK are few and far between for a band so popular on home turf; their last here was in 2008 (discounting the very occasional one-offs in London). Their most recent album, Algiers, their ninth, was recorded in New Orleans and released last September. Check it out on Spotify or MySpace before picking up your ticket.

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